VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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JUNE NEWS

 

SMOOTHER SAMSUNGS

Samsung are planning to add at least two, and possibly four new camcorders to their range later this year. The first two follow on from the highly successful VPE-808; they're the VPU 10 and 12, a pair of smooth-looking and very well-specified  8mm compacts selling for 530 and 570 respectively. The two machines have a very similar specification, their features list includes:

 

* 4-mode program auto exposure

* 2-lux low-light sensitivity

* title generator

* dual speed recording

* credit-card sized remote

* self and interval timers

* 3-stage solarisation effect

* insert edit

 

Additionally the VPU12 has a 12X zoom lens, (the VPU10 has an 8X zoom), clip-on video light and sportsfinder eyepiece.

 

The other two models, provisionally planned for late 94, (but Samsung launch dates tend to be a tad optimistic...), are the VPJ50 and 52. They're a couple of very interesting new sub-compact palmcorders, weighing less than 700 grams all-up. Like the VPU 10 /12, with which they share a similar set of features, they are differentiated by their zoom lenses and accessory packs.

 

These two machine provide further evidence, if it were needed, that the technology gap that once existed between Korean and Japanese camcorders has all but disappeared. Prices have still to be finalised but the expectation is they'll be selling for around 630 and 700 each.

 

SONY BROADEN ACCESSORY RANGE

Sony are adding a steady stream of new products to their accessory range in an attempt to gain some of the market share that is currently going to third-party manufacturers. Three new camcorder gadgets have caught our eye recently and will be given a more in-depth appraisal in forthcoming Minitests over the next few months. The first one is the VCT-750RM tripod. It looks fairly conventional, with three-section locking legs and a bubble level, but the pan/tilt head is different. Built into the hand-grip there's a set of controls to operate the camcorder's zoom and record/pause/standby functions. The head connect up to the machine's Control L socket, which limits its usefulness somewhat, mostly to Sony machines and a handful or models from Sanyo and Canon, so for owners of other machines the 150 asking price looks rather steep.

 

Accessory number two is another stability aid, this time it's a pistol-type hand grip, called the GP-TRX, and at the flip of a switch it converts to a table tripod. It's a very clever design, and like the tripod it has a remote record/pause trigger so it'll only be of interest to owners of camcorders with a Control L facility, who may feel the 90 price tag is just about acceptable.

 

The third accessory is a microphone. It's the ECM-PB1C, and what separates this one from the crowd is the fact that it's the very first parabolic microphone designed exclusively for camcorder use. It's small, light and looks a bit like an oxygen mask. Sony reckon the satellite dish-shaped reflector gives the microphone a sensitivity around three times greater than a normal mike, and is highly directional to boot, which makes it ideal for shooting wildlife, and other things, which we needn't go into here. The price? It's going to be around 90, which will be worth it, if it's as good as Sony claim. We'll reserve judgement until we can get our hands on one, which should be quite soon.

 

The fourth and final product isn't a camcorder accessory, as such, but it can be used with one. It's a new video printer, called the CVP-M3 and it's due to go on sale anytime now for around 1300. It's not significantly different to what has gone before, though it is smaller than most other video printers and it has an S-Video input. It also has a built-in titler and masking facility (star, heart or oval shapes), multiple images (4 or 16) and remote control; this one also uses standard film packs, which should make it a little cheaper to run, compared with previous Sony printers. Sony seem to think there's a market for a transportable video printer, so they've given the CVP-M3 a shoulder strap, don't ask us why, it's not as though it runs off batteries... Test soon.

 

 

SONY EDIT VCR

In amongst Sony's crop of new season VHS VCRs, due for launch over the next few months, one very camcorder-friendly model caught our eye. The  SLV-E90 is a new top-flight edit deck guaranteed to quicken the heart of any video movie-maker. It's a highly specified NICAM stereo machine, with all the latest convenience features, including Video Plus+ timer programming and Sony's new 'Trilogic' tape-tuning system but it's the editing facilities we're most interested in. It has:

 

* front-mounted AV terminal

* front-mounted Control L socket

* front-mounted mic and headphone sockets

* flying erase head

* audio dub

* syncro edit

* twin jog/shuttle dials

 

Quite a line-up and the price reflects the advanced specification, so at just under 650 it looks like reasonable value, especially if it performs as well as previous Sony machines; we shall have to wait and see, a full review is planned, even as we speak.

 

SONY CAMCORDER SELECTION

Just when you though there were no gaps left to fill in Sony's already extensive camcorder range, they go an launch six more machines. We've already looked at two of them in detail, the TR2000 and in this issue the TR3, but you can look forward to reading all about the other four in the coming months. You'll be relieved to know that two of them are essentially upgrades of the other two; the first pair are the CCD-TR350 and 450 and yes, you spotted it, Sony are recycling old model numbers, so don't get these machines confused with '91 vintage CCD-F350 and F450. The TR350 is an entry-level palmcorder with 10x zoom, variable-speed zoom, 2-lux low-light sensitivity and naughty, naughty, no manual focus! Let's hope its AF system is super-dependable... The TR350 will cost 650, the TR450, which has an LCD colour viewfinder, (103k pixel display), and will sell for 700.

 

The other two machines are the CCD-TR530 and TR750, but this time the differences are more substantial. The 530 is their second machine to use the electronic Steadyshot system, first seen on the TR3 (see this issue), which confirms our suspicion that optical stabilisers, clever though they are, are not the way forward. The 530's other notable features include;

 

* 12x zoom lens

* 4-mode program AE

* black/mosaic fader

 

The price is expected to be 800, which is quite a lot for what appears to be a fairly ordinary mono palmcorder. The TR750 adds Hi8, hi-fi stereo sound, manual exposure controls and a digital zoom to the list, and bumps the price up by a further 200, taking it to within a whisker of 1000, which, considering the improved specification doesn't seem too bad for a Hi8 machine. Full reviews of all of these models are in the pipeline.

 

NEW JVC VCRS

JVC are planning to add no less than seven new VCRs to their '94 model range, with prices ranging from just under 300 to almost 900, so there's something for everyone, those with camcorder friendly features have already been earmarked for review, so watch this space.

 

We'll begin with the mono machines and the HR-J210 which will be selling for 299.99. It's a single-speed deck (with LP replay), Video Plus+ timer, multi-brand LCD remote, twin SCARTs, multi-speed trick-play, digital tracking and a full set of auto features; sounds like good value. The HR-J410 is a twin-speed machine with all of the above plus a jog/shuttle, 4-heads for improved trick-play and LP performance, it will set you back 350. The last of the three mono machines is the HR-J415, and this one is definitely on our list of review machines. In addition to all of the features of the 410 it has a front-mounted AV terminal, random-assemble edit and sound shuttle (you get to hear the audio track during trick play), twin jog/shuttles and a built in PDC decoder, which means no more lost beginnings and endings on timer recordings. That's assuming the ITV companies and the BBC join with C4 and adopt the system, which rumour has it they may just do later this year.

 

Next we come to three new NICAM  stereo VCRs. The first one is the HR-J610. Apart from a hyper-bass option it has a fairly run-of-the-mill specification, not dissimilar to the 410 but with stereo hi-fi sound; nothing wrong with that, just not very interesting, No price as yet, in any case it's not due for launch until June. The HR-J715 is more our cup of tea, this one has a built-in random assemble editing system (similar to the 415), insert edit, a flying erase head, audio dub, jog/shuttles and front AV terminal, and at 500 it looks like a rather good deal. The last of the VHS NICAM VCRs is the HR-J815, a classy-looking machine and another one that we'll be looking at in the fullness of time. It has all of the features of the 715, plus an on-screen display, and a host of extra gadgets, which account for the price of just under 600.

 

The last of the seven is a new Super VHS video recorder, one of a tiny handful of S-VHS machines launched this year, reflecting the woefully small market share the format has gained in the past six years. The HR-S5900 is a fine machine, though unfortunately it's unlikely to have much of an impact on the market, 800 is still a lot to pay for a VCR, even one as good as this, and other developments in standard VHS have whittled away some of the performance gains. Features include new digital video processing circuits for improved colour reproduction, a super-fast deck mechanism, jitter-free picture search, plenty of edit-oriented features (insert edit, audio dub, jog/shuttle dial, and front AV terminal), and a high-performance stereo sound system. We're due to have a look at it soon, possibly as soon as next month.

 

CAMCORDER COMEBACK

JVC's commitment to the VHS-C has largely sustained the format in the face of 8mm's growing market share, and although it's too late to turn the clock back their latest models, and those now coming from Panasonic, should help to stem the tide for a while yet. JVC are launching three new VHS-C palmcorders this year, they are the GR-AX40, GR-AX60 and GR-AX70. Later in the year they're planning to introduce a new S-VHS-C machine, the GR-SX1, a novel-looking sub-compact that could easily pass for a top-of-the-line Hi8 palmcorder.

 

Let's look at those machines in more detail. The GR-AX40 is the base-line model, priced at 650. It's very similar to the previous AX machines but with a higher level of specification and sleeker styling. Assemble editing is possible with an optional remote handset. The AX60 comes with a built-in flip-up video light and multi-brand handset for assemble editing, which also covers a range of other features, including interval timer, audio dub and insert edit; it costs 700. The AX70 is the colour viewfinder version of the AX60, this adds another 50 to the price, taking it up to 750.

 

Thus far details of the SX1 remain a little sketchy and all we've seen so far are pre-production prototypes and dummies, so it's hard to say what the final specification or price will be. Hopefully we'll have some more news for you soon.

 

AKAI GO SUPER

No, Akai haven't launched a Super VHS deck, they're still sticking steadfastly to their Intelligent HQ tape tuning systems, which they claim gives comparable results to S-VHS, but they've added another enhancement to the technology, featured on their latest VHS VCRs, which they've confusingly called Super I-HQ, no doubt to muddy the murky waters even further.

 

Super I-HQ is a two-headed beast, firstly it uses a new head design, to give picture improvement at LP recording speed, and secondly, new circuits to give cleaner, clearer colours, minimise bleed  and noise. Akai reckon S-I-HQ also enhances hi-fi sound quality, by reducing interference between the video and audio signals. Like previous I-HQ machines the VCR makes a short test recording, lasting a few seconds, to assess the quality of the tape and adjust its recording and playback circuits accordingly. Whereas the older machines sorts tape into one of four or five categories S-I-HQ recognises 256 grades, improving it's optimisation abilities further still.

 

The two most interesting new machines in the range -- from a camcorder owners point of view -- are the VS-G815 and G2200. In addition to S-I-HQ, NICAM and hi-fi sound the 815 has:

 

* jog/shuttle remote

* front AV inputs

* audio dub

* microphone input

* manual recording level

* index, blank and edit search functions

* twin SCART

* jitter free trick play

* Video Plus+ timer

 

This machine will go on sale in September and the expected retail price will be around 450. The G2200 has the same set of features, plus a slightly more AV-centred specification with full front panel flap, Startext or PDC instead of Video Plus+, NTSC playback, subtitle recording, front-panel jog/shuttle and a flying erase head, with insert edit facility. This machine is also scheduled for a September launch and will cost 600.

 

CARD SHARP

If you've got an IBM PC or compatible, with 386SX processor or above, DOS and Windows,  then stand by your expansion slots for the Movie Machine Pro. This plug-in card is what you've been waiting for, to make sense of the long-awaited, and much talked about (but rarely seen...)  integration of video and computers.

 

Movie Machine Pro does four very important things: first, it enables composite video signals, from a camcorder VCR etc. to be displayed on the computer's monitor screen. Second, still images can be stored on the computer's hard disc in a variety of formats, so they can be edited or manipulated by other applications. Thirdly, the software includes a sophisticated AV processor that can handle two free-running images, creating a variety of effects which includes wipes, overlays, graphics and  titles, to name just a few. And lastly it can output all of the above in composite video, so it can be recorded on a VCR.

 

And as if that little lot wasn't enough, it has a built-in TV tuner that allows the user to overlay a variable-sized TV picture onto any Windows application, so you could be doing a spot of word processing, and watch a mini TV screen showing Coronation Street in the corner of the display, if you were so inclined. The TV window can be sized, stretched and dragged to any shape or location (up to full screen size) and the picture still looks good, better in fact than some small-screen TVs we could mention. 

 

We're putting a beta version of Movie Machine though its paces as we speak, and if the preliminary results are anything to go by it's going to be a real stonker. So start saving, because it's going to cost you 500 or thereabouts. More details next month.

 

Pic captions

Grundig E-72-911 DSP, an F.A.Porsche-designed 68cm Dolby Pro-Logic monster with super-flat Megatron picture tube, and a 1250 price tag to match...

 

Return of the Double Decker, the Goldstar DD101i 8mm/VHS twin deck VCR is being re-launched as the RDD13iQ, with a Video Plus+ timer, and revised price tag of 660

 

---end--

R.Maybury 1994 1404

 


 

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